In my experience, there are three essential things you’ll need: good olives, good friends, and good neighbors.
- Pre-heat your life. Marinate in thoughts of living overseas for years and years.
- Before your heart becomes hard, go.
- Count your blessings when the one you love agrees to join you.
- Wander the globe together. Live in Northern Japan, then big city Tokyo. Stir in trips to China, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. Flavor to taste.
- Meet friendly, warm New Zealanders everywhere you go.
- Move to New Zealand. Because, why not?
- Live in the capital city of Wellington. Love it.
- Listen when the one you love comes home one day and says, “I’ve found paradise, and I want us to go live there.” Always be open to opportunity.
- Go together to look at paradise, which is a simple 20 acre property with an olive grove in the Wairarapa valley, outside Wellington.
- Fall in love with the olive trees the second you see them. Say yes.
- Move out to the country, without knowing a thing about olive trees, and having never lived in a rural setting before. Ignore the fear. (You have lived in more difficult places than this.)
- Meet the neighbors. Appreciate them. They are good and kind and you will come to rely on them in a way you have never relied on neighbors before. Help them in return, every chance you can. They are precious.
- Learn about the trees in your grove. Discover that they are not all just ‘olive trees.’ They are Barnea, and Leccino, and Frantoio, and more. Learn the difference. Read books. Talk to other olive growers who are happy to share their love of these incredible trees.
- Watch your olives grow. Take care of them. Learn how and when to prune the trees, how and when to protect them against monsters like ‘peacock spot’ and ‘bacterial blast.’
- When the fruit (yes, olives are fruit) in your grove are just about one-third green, one-third black, and one-third half way between green and black, ask your city friends and your neighbors to help with the harvest.
- Ask other growers about how and where to get olives pressed for oil, because you don’t really know.
- Call an olive press and schedule yourself in. Try to be calm and act like you do this every day.
- Borrow harvest equipment (nets and rakes and crates) from anyone you can.
- On the day of the big harvest, when you see your friends and your neighbors and the one you love working in the olive grove, pause for a moment. Become deeply overwhelmed with gratitude. This is your life, and it is good.
- Drop the olives off at the press that evening, because olives must be pressed within 24 hours after harvesting or they start to ferment.
- Pick up the oil the next day. Listen gleefully when the woman who owns the press says, “Your oil is beautiful.” Take her words home like a treasure.
- Taste the oil. Be shocked. This is not like any olive oil you have ever tasted before. Suddenly realize that all the mass-produced supermarket oil is not real olive oil. Taste your oil again – your very own oil! Taste the grassy opening notes, the mild and fruity middle, the strong peppery bang at the end.
- Become overwhelmed with gratitude all over again.
Read the full story in the bestselling book from Random House New Zealand: ‘Moon Over Martinborough: How an American city boy became a Kiwi farmer’.